This was Adam & The Ants Mark II, the Mark I version having been formed in early 1977 and featuring singer Stuart Goddard (later to go by the name Adam Ant), the only contributor common to both versions. Ants I were a very different proposition from the New Romantic Ants II: the mood was darker, the lyrics had more serious themes (art, iconic figures from history, fetishism) and the music was post-punk with a nod to funk and even soul. Joining Goddard in Ants I were a succession of guitarists and drummers and a long-serving bass player, Andy Warren. They started gigging in May 1977 and by the time they made their first professional recordings, Dave Barbarossa had joined as drummer. The songs were intended for the film ‘Jubilee’, in which Goddard had an acting role and in which The Ants could be seen supporting him as the backing band for his character Kid.
In January 1978 they appeared on John Peel’s show for Radio 1 and in April the ‘Jubilee’ soundtrack album appeared, making two of their recordings commercially available for the first time. At this time the group was also touring extensively in the UK, supporting bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees. They found little support in the music press, although they did develop a cult following in fanzines. New guitarist Matthew Ashman joined as the group secured a one-single deal with Decca: Young Parisians did little business and although they recorded around 20 songs in demo form, Decca dropped them. They moved to a new contract with independent label Do It but again, single Zerox failed to chart and debut album Dirk Wears White Sox was an underground cult hit only.
In the Autumn of 1979 the band almost broke up: Ashman left temporarily, Warren quit in November, and Goddard and Barbarossa recorded some demos for a proposed solo Adam record which Do It rejected. Things seemed to be looking less gloomy when Leigh Gorman was brought in to replace Warren, Ashman returned, and Goddard approached Malcolm McLaren to manage the band; unfortunately in January 1980, after just a few weeks of this arrangement, McLaren persuaded The Ants to form a new band, Bow Wow Wow, with girl singer Annabella Lwin.
Goddard started again. Ants II was formed from February to April 1980, a key hire being Marco Pirroni (an ex-member of Siouxsie and the Banshees) who would go on to co-write many of the group’s future hits with Goddard. Goddard still owed Do It a single, and so he and Pirroni organized a re-recording of the Dirk Wears White Sox track, Cartrouble, produced by Chris Hughes who as a full member of Ants II would go by the name Merrick. (Also featured on this recording was future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss, credited as ‘Terrys 1+2’ as permanent drummer Terry Lee Miall had just been found.)
Bass player Kevin Mooney joined in time for the appropriately named ‘Ants Invasion’ gigs that followed. During this tour the group signed with major label CBS and had a minor hit with Kings of the Wild Frontier, which indicated the change in musical direction to New Romanticism. But it was the release of the album of the same name in November 1980 that saw Adam & The Ants become a major attraction at last. It immediately entered the album chart in the Top 10, going on to spend 12 weeks at #1. Over in the singles chart, Dog Eat Dog, the second CBS single, was also in the Top 10 and Antmusic about to make its way to #2 in the New Year.
The “welcome consequences” of all this activity mentioned at the start of this article were that past recordings by Ants I started to sell too. Past companies cashing in with old material is not necessarily welcome, but in this case it all helped to keep Adam & The Ants in the media: and they were everywhere. Indeed, on 24 January 1981 there were five Ants singles on the Top 75, a situation repeated in each of the weeks from 21 February – 21 March 1981. This was caused in part by Decca and Do It re-promoting their past releases: Young Parisians reached the Top 10, and while Zerox and Cartrouble achieved rather more modest chart positions, all three singles remained on the chart until the week ending 21 March 1981. Album Dirk Wears White Sox also put in an appearance on the album chart Top 20.
CBS also benefitted from this surge in the group’s popularity; Kings of the Wild Frontier also re-charted (during the single’s re-appearance, Mooney left the band and was replaced by Tibbs), this time falling one place short of topping the chart when it had struggled to reach #48 the first time. Hence the delay in releasing Stand And Deliver: as indicated above, the market and the charts were saturated with Ants records. Promos for the single had already been sent out in March 1981, meaning that by the time the single was released in May the public were familiar with it. Consequently, it performed the highly unusual (for the time) feat of entering the singles chart at #1. It stayed there for five weeks, ending up the biggest hit single of Goddard’s career when it earned him a gold disc to go with several silver ones.
NEW SINGLES on sale from May. 1
ADAM AND THE ANTS (Adam Ant) Stand And Deliver (CBS CBSA1065)
ALTERED IMAGES A Day’s Wait (Epic EPCA1167)
IMAGINATION (Leee John) Body Talk (R&B Records RBS201)
JAPAN The Art Of Parties (Virgin VS409)
Q-TIPS (Paul Young) Stay The Way You Are (Chrysalis CHS2518)